Acts 1:20

Friday, 15 October 2021

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;
‘Let another take his office.’
Acts 1:20

Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Peter having noted that Judas was a part of the ministry (1:17), now continues after the parenthetical thought concerning Judas’ demise (1:18, 19). In his ongoing words, he quotes Scripture, saying, “For it is written in the Book of Psalms.” It is an expression unique to Luke’s writings, en biblō Psalmōn, or “in book Psalms.”

From Luke’s words, as confirmed by the citation of Peter, the Psalms were considered their own book at this time. This is not surprising, but it is simply a point of fact concerning them. It is understood that there were writings considered inspired and that they were divided in various ways.

For example, Jesus speaks of the “book of Moses,” in Mark 12:26 when referring to Exodus. At other times, the body of literature ascribed to Moses is called “the law of Moses” (e.g., Luke 2:22). The entire body of Old Testament writings is also divided up in various ways, such as “the Law and the Prophets” in Matthew 7:12, or as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” in Luke 24:44.

Such terms clearly indicate that the Scriptures were considered inspired and that they were held to as individual books, as sections of a whole, and as a whole body of distinct literature. As for Peter’s words now, what he says takes it as an axiom that the Psalms are inspired. As such, there should be no surprise that Christ was crucified, nor should it be a surprise that one of his own apostles would betray Him.

And so, with that encouragement conveyed to the others for them to know that God had, in fact, worked out a plan that included the deeds of Judas, he says –

“Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it.”

The words are taken from Psalm 69:25 –

“Let their dwelling place be desolate;
Let no one live in their tents.”

Peter changes the plural (general enemies who war against David) and changes them to the singular (a specific enemy who arose against the Messiah).

In the Psalm, the Hebrew word “dwelling place” is that of an encampment. In Peter’s words, he uses a Greek word found only here in the Bible, epaulis. The word is derived from epi (over) and aulé (sheepfold, courtyard, etc). It is then accepted in translations to signify a dwelling place. Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“The word is used in classical Greek of a place for cattle. So Herodotus (i., 111): ‘The herdsman took the child in his arms, and went back the way he had come, till he reached the fold’ (ἔπαυλιν). Also of farm-building, a country-house.”

As this is the case, there is no reason to not assume Peter is referring to a sheepfold. Jesus had already equated the office of the apostle to a tender of sheep (see John 21:15, 16). Paul will refer to leaders within the church as shepherds of the church in Acts 20:28, and Peter will repeat the sentiment in 1 Peter 5:2. As such, whether a dwelling place or a position of being over the sheep (those in the church), Peter ascribes the words of the psalm to Judas, noting that his dwelling place should be made desolate. The type of shepherding he would have conducted is not to be emulated.

His next words, “And let no one live in it,” signify that not only should it be desolate, but it should remain as such. If a replacement for him is to be found, it is to be in a completely new direction and not in the one of a traitor. With that stated, Peter then quotes another psalm, saying, “Let another take his office.”

It is a quote from Psalm 109:8 –

“Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.”

Peter uses the word heteros, signifying a different person. The word translated as “office” is episkopé. Paul uses it in 1 Timothy 3:1 where it is translated as “overseer.” It is an office of care and attention where a leader is known to personally visit those under him. The position originally assigned to Judas as an apostle, an office that assumes the responsibility of being an overseer, was to be taken over by someone else.

Life application: To help get the sense of Peter’s words, if one were to take the general thought of this verse (a verse which only describes what occurred and does not prescribe anything) and apply it in a similar manner within the church, an example might be that of replacing a doctrinally poor pastor or teacher.

For example, if a local church has several teaching pastors, and one of them started denying the deity of Christ, he would need to be replaced – immediately. One might say, “Let his dwelling place (his doctrine) be removed completely and let no one live in it (no one teach this heretical nonsense) again.” At the same time, it is appropriate to hire a new teacher, one that will teach properly. So, the call is, “Let another take his office (someone different needs to take over his duties).”

Though not prescriptive, the general principle is sound. When someone fills a position within the church, and he turns out to be a dud like Judas, the best thing to do is to not only replace him, but to ensure that what he was doing (or teaching) is not repeated. The church is where people are to go to learn about the faith. The Bible is where one learns about the faith. The faith is to be based on proper doctrine and on a right understanding of theology. That theology is to adequately and rightly instruct concerning Jesus. When that is accomplished, people will then properly understand their state in relation to God.

In this case, one thing leads to another, and it all starts with proper instruction. And so, the highest care is to be given to ensure those who teach are actually qualified, capable, and rightly directed to doing exactly that.

Lord God, may those we select to teach and preach within the church actually be acceptable to do so. Your word calls people “sheep” for a reason. We are helpless and easily led astray. And so, we pray that You will only allow qualified, competent, and faithful men of God over us. May it be so, to Your glory. Amen.